Read Easier Online: Eye-care For Busy People

Whether you think, you know, or you don’t mind that you’re spending too much time on the internet, don’t forget to take care of your eyesight.

It isn’t just reading that we’re talking about here. In the normal course of being online you can expect to browse and read for information, and then there’s also responding to things like posts, emails, and IM’s. And for business,  there’s also writing reports and things like preparing presentations, verifying information and the like.

Viewing, reading, and writing — whatever you do with all the time you spend online, you’ve probably experienced the following symptoms from over-use.

  • Dry, ”sandy’ feeling eyes.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Difficulty focusing.
  • Eye irritation and redness.
  • Headaches (Throw in neck and/or back-pain)

Related series:  You and Your Computer
Information: Computer Vision Syndrome (American Optometric Association)

This article will  show you what you can do to create a better, healthier reading experiences online under the headings of  brightness, formatting and content length. Included are certain browser plug-ins and programs — so play it safe and  back up your profile in your browser of choice before making any changes.

ONE: Brightness
Computer monitors emit light on the blue spectrum, imitating daylight. That’s fine during the day, but unaltered in the evening, the light from your screen can affect your sleep pattern.  For long-term reading, the regular screen brightness can  also be too harsh, regardless of the time of day.  Just as the eye doctors advise protecting your eyes  outdoors on sunny days by wearing sunglasses,  working indoors you can protect your eyes by doing something about the brightness of your computer screen.

Adjust your settings
On your own you can raise or lower your screen’s brightness  In Windows you can raise or lower screen brightness with  the hotkeys Alt-PgDn and Alt-PgUp. Play around with your computer settings until you find the right ones for you. The screen contrast, brightness and even font-size can be altered until you find the sweet spot for your eyes.

You can also install the  popular and highly recommended (and free!)  f.lux to help adjust the appearance of your screen to be gentler on your eyes. F.lux does this by matching your screen’s display color to the time: “‘warm at night and like sunlight during the day. ” Don’t be shocked by the initial display; try it out for at least 2-3 days so you can adjust to the effects on your eyes and verify if it helps you.

Tip: If you need to finish reading something but the screen is still too bright at night, try the darkroom mode so you won’t have trouble with sleeping after.

Deal with the environmental glare
Adjust the lighting in your environment to reduce glare on the screen. You can put a filter over the monitor to help, and if the situation allows it, you can have dimmer switches installed for overhead lighting, or use a desk lamp to help aim light evenly over your work desk. Other options include adjusting the position of the monitor in case you’re near or next to  a window,  or  adjusting the shades or curtains. The goal is to reduce glare bouncing off the screen and on other reflective surfaces.

TWO: Layout and Formatting
Whether we’re on social media, news sites, or on smartphones, we read massive amounts of content, but the experience isn’t always uniform. From busy lay-outs and painful color contrasts to tiny fonts and walls-of-text, we can find all sorts of things that make reading a strain on the eyes.

Tweak your browser
As part of personalization, all browsers have the basic options menu to adjust webpage presentation to suit individual users. This includes options to adjust default fonts and font size, font color and background color for easier reading.  And certain hotkeys  also help zoom in on webpages. For example, in Firefox it’s Ctrl+ Plus sign (magnify)  or Ctrl+Minus sign (minimize).

Readable and Readability
The Readable application is great for those who prefers hands-on tweaking and personalization. With it you have your choice of font, font size, colors, text justification, width, and an option to set your own personal CSS style sheet to format text content to your exact specs.  In one click, you can reformat the text on any website you visit to your exact specifications.

THREE: Content Length
We mention content length specifically here because it’s  connected to the time you have to read. If you don’t have the time but an article is useful or interesting, there are add-ons, and services that let you bookmark and save the article so you can catch up later.

Readability Bookmarklet (Free)
The paid version is a web app that saves your articles and then lets you read them on any of your linked devices. The free Bookmarklet function will help you convert and save the article with a new URL for later reading.

Safari Reader or iReader
Safari Reader is built into the browser itself, and one helpful feature is collation: if an article is broken down into several pages, it loads the article in its entirety for streamlined reading. The iReader extension is available for Chrome and Firefox and is a near-twin to Safari Reader. The latest version of Safari also comes with a new Reading List sidebar which lets you save articles for reading later.

Other  top recommendations are Instapaper, Pocket, Clearly (Chrome) + Evernote combo (you can format, bookmark, save and note) and Clearly (Firefox add-on).

Whatever tools you settle on, you can rest knowing you made yourself a better, healthier reading experience from this day forward. Well done.

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